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Brewing, Brewing, and Brewing
Posted August 10, 2004 at 03:13:51 PM by Bean in the Beer category
All you may very well know - I brew beer.  I generally brew 5-gallon batches and use the all-grain method.  That is, I start with malted barley, hops, yeast, and water - as opposed to starting out with canned/prehopped malt extract.  I liken it to making a cake from scratch instead of making it from a box.  Now, I am definately no knocking extract brewing (or partial mashing, for that matter), as that's how I started.  Good beer can be made in many ways, but I like the level on control I get when brewing all-grain.  And building the system is half the fun!

Major System Components:
  • Brew Bench - My brewing bench is a monster.  It has lots of counter-top space, a nice shelf for storage, and a second teir to hold my HLT.  The whole thing is on wheels (thanks, Dad) so I can move it from the basement to the back deck.  I don't have a good picture of it in it's entirety, but it can be seen in some of teh follwoing pics.
  • Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) - This is a vessel used to hold up to 5 gallons of hot water.  It is a 5-gallon water cooler on which I replaced the factory spigot with a quarter-turn ball valve and some high-temp O-rings.  It holds temperature well and also doubles as place to store cleaning/sanitizing liquid during cleanup.
  • Mash/Lauter Tun (MLT) - This is also made of a 5-gallon water cooler with a replaced spigot.  On the inside of the MLT, a slotted copper manifold rests on the bottom and connects to the spigot.  This allows me to runn off the sweet wort while leaving the grain behind during recirculation and sparge.
  • Kettle - The biggest vessel in my system is my converted keg boil kettle.  It can handle up to about 12 gallons of wort at a rolling boil.  It has a spigot welded near the bottom with a pickup tube that reaches to within about 1/8" of the bottom of the keg.  It sit upon a propane burner that I bought as a turkey fryer.
  • Chiller - My counterflow wort chiller is a heat coilded up heat exchanger.  There is a convoluted copper tub on the inside of a larger, smooth copper tube.  When in use, cold water flows through the outside and hot wort flows through the inside.  It can cool 5-6 gallons of hot wort down to 75F in about 5 minutes.
  • Heat Exchanger - My pride and joy.  This is a 1-gallon enamle-on-steel pot with a 120V (13A) water heater element mounted in it.  A steel flange and plenty of silicon ensure a nice seal.  A copper tube is coiled around the inside and the pot is filled with water.  I can circulate liquid through the coil to heat it up to my desired temperature.
  • Pump - I have a March brand high temperature, magneticley-coupled pump.  It is used to move water and wort from one vessel to another.  Before I had this, the brew day involved a lot more lifting and a lot more danger.

Minor System Components:
  • Sparge Arm - I have a rotating sparge arm that is used to spin and evenly distrubute hot water over the mash during the sparge.  It doesn't always spin that well, but I usually keep enough water on top of the mash that it's not a big deal.
  • Sparge Manifold - As mentioned above, this is a slotted copper manifold that is used to filter grain out of the mash runoff.  It's made of 1/2 copper is easy to take apart for cleaning.
  • Recirculation Manifold - This is a simple "H-shaped" copper manifold used to distribut the mash runoff evenly back on top of the mash during recirculation.  I cant use the sparge arm for this because the may be small particals in the runoff that would clog it, atleast at first.
  • Carboy Filler - I built a simple copper manifold that fits on the out-flow end of the chiller.  It contains an inlet to allow me to bubble filered O2 or air into the cool wort stream and monitor the temperature as it empties into the carboy.
  • Inline Temp Manifold - Another copper manifold that can be inserted inline using qucik-disconnects to measure the liquid temperature without disturbing the flow.
  • Hoses, etc. - I use hoses of different lengths to connect the pump to the other vessels via quick-disconnects.  I have QD's on everythign, so the system is very dynamic.  I can insert and remove equipment very easily.
  • Other stuff - I have a lot of other crap that is either old equipment that I don't use very ofton or things I am working on for future improvements.

Process Notes:
  • I took timing notes on my last brew - they are here.
  • I drew some brewing diagrams showing how I hook up the various components during the steps of brewing.
  • Recirculation - Ever since I got my new high-temperature pump, I have been brewing using a recirculating mash setup with an external heat exchanger (External Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System - EHERMS).  The main reason I wanted to use an external heat exchanger is that I only want to have one burner in my system - the kettle burner.  Most other recirculation setups use the HLT to heat the circulating mash, requiring the HLT to be heated.  My HLT is a plastic cooler, and I like it that way, so direct heating is out.
  • Fermentation - I ferment in 5 to 6.5-gallon glass carboys.  I place the carboys either in my basement (around 72F) or in my fermentation box, which I can adjust from about 55F to 72F.  When not in use, I keep them filled with bleach water.
  • Kegging - I quit bottling about 4 years ago and haven't looked back.  I use 5-gallon ball-lock sode kegs.  Kegging is so much easier and more convenient than dealing with all those bottles.  I have a Carbonator Cap for those rare ocasion that I need to transport a small quantity of beer.
  • Storage - I have a cold room under my basement steps (construction details here).  It holds somewhere between 40F and 44F.  It can store all my kegs (5), a commercial keg or two, and still have room for a lager in a carboy.
  • Drinking - I have 3 taps mounted through the side of the cold room into th basement.  I'll pretty it up once I put up some drywall.
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